For a law student slogging through hundreds of pages of reading each night, battling the daunting curve and stressing over the dismal job market, it can be difficult to see the positive side of law school. As an associate who is overwhelmed with work until 2 am each night or a public interest attorney trying to serve the underserved with little resources, it’s easy to complain about practice doldrums. It’s rare that we stop and realize what a luxury it is to have a legal education and career—one that some women across the world couldn’t even dream of having. That is, until now.
Ms. JD—a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 that focuses on women lawyers and law students—recently launched a phenomenal program called the Global Education Fund, which makes the dream of law school a reality for women in developing countries. This past Wednesday, I was privileged to attend a celebration of Ms. JD’s Global Education Fund at Sullivan & Cromwell’s offices in downtown Manhattan.
The highlights of the event were a video showcasing the fund’s current scholars—two female law students in Uganda—and remarks from Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, who serves as Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Elizabeth Pederson, Ms. JD’s founder, introduced the video through which we met Joaninne Nanyange and Monica Athieno, the two women who received scholarships from Ms. JD to study law at Makerere University. Excitement and sheer gratitude radiated from both young women—even through a Skype recording.
As Pederson pointed out, “45 percent of adult women in Uganda have had no access” to education. Ms. JD’s fund has ensured this statistic doesn’t apply to Nanyange and Athieno, who plan to become a human rights activist and judge, respectively. Athieno hopes to “be a voice for the voiceless women.” But it is clear that these two scholars are already inspirations for the women of Uganda. “When you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” said Nanyange.
And when you listen to a woman, you may educate the world—a point conveyed through Tzemach Lemmon’s remarks following the video. Tzemach Lemmon, who previously worked as a journalist at ABC News and is a graduate of Harvard Business School, spoke about her experience interviewing Afghan women for her book “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.” The book describes the remarkable efforts of a young woman who became an entrepreneur (through dress making) during the Taliban years in Afghanistan, providing financial support for her own family and opportunities for many other women. “In a time of great desperation, they created hope,” said Tzemach Lemmon. She had been inspired to uncover this story because “almost no one thinks of these women” living their daily lives during war time. “Oftentimes we just forget how many unsung heroines are around us,” said Tzemach Lemmon who described the strength and drive of the women she met, along with the high stakes they faced in even speaking with her (one woman shared that her husband would divorce her for speaking with Tzemach Lemmon).
It is easy to complain. But it is so much better to see the hope and satisfaction brought by opportunity . . . brought by a voice. You can learn more about Ms. JD’s fund and about Tzemach Lemmon’s book through the links below.
Ms. JD site
Ms. JD Global Education Fund
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon site
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